National Geographic: Adventures - Panama Canal: The Mountain and the Mosquito


The Panama Canal is completed.

The Atlantic and the Pacific are joined.

The most ambitious construction project

since the great pyramids of Egypt.

The work has spanned nearly

half a century,

and claimed the lives of

Now it is finished and the world

is suddenly smaller.

But behind this epic tale,

there is another story

of two unsung heroes.

One is an engineer from the Rockies

with the vision to move mountains.

The other, a soft-spoken

Alabama physician

whose enemies are ignorance,

disease and death.

Together, they take on a wilderness

that had defeated the best engineers in the world.

Without either one,

the Panama Canal could not be built.

And yet, one of these visionaries

will suddenly and mysteriously

walk away

before the canal is finished.

And take the secret of his departure

to his grave.

The Republic of Panama,

Central America.

A barricade between two oceans.

With a blanket of jungle.

And a spine of mountains.

Today, 14,000 ships sail through

these peaks and forests each year.

Their miracle highway

is the Panama Canal.

One of the wonders of the modern world.

A miracle that,

on a rain-soaked day in July, 1905,

no one in Panama would

have believed possible.

At the port of Colon,

a new American field boss has

arrived to take control

of a dying dream.

At age 52, John Stevens has built

more miles of railroad than

any other engineer in the world.

The Rocky Mountains

have been his home.

And spanning them his

greatest challenge... until now.

In Panama, yellow fever has killed

hundreds of workers,

most of them from the West Indies,

and terrified the rest.

The men call it The Great Scare.

But his orders come directly

from the President of the United States.

In his first address to Congress

Roosevelt vows to chop

the Isthmus of Panama in half

and complete The Big Ditch.

"We must build the Isthmian Canal...

No single great material work

which remains to be undertaken

on this continent

is of such consequence

to the American people."

Roosevelt's motives are patriotic,

economic and military.

A canal would trim nearly a month

from the travel time

between New York and San Francisco.

Making the shortest path

between the oceans a superhighway

of American commerce

and the lifeline of

the nation's burgeoning two-ocean Navy.

Roosevelt inspires thousands of

young American laborers

to set off for Panama.

But they disembark in

a steaming hell.

Soaring heat...

punishing rains...

ancient jungles.

Temperatures top 130 and it can

rain daily for eight months.

In the unbroken forests,

lethal predators await the

innocent arrivals.

But the most mortal dangers

are too small to see

Confused, chaotic, and deadly.

Teddy Roosevelt's Big Ditch Project

is a quagmire

sucking up millions of dollars,

and hundreds of lives.

To slice through the

bureaucratic nightmare,

Roosevelt authorizes John Stevens

to ignore any orders

that do not come directly

from the White House.

Stevens agrees.

And he advises the

much younger president

to keep his promise.

I'm to have a free hand.

I'm not to be hampered

or handicapped by anyone high or low.

And I'm to stay on the Isthmus

only until success is assured.

It is no accident that

Stevens has been recruited.

For the Canal to succeed,

it must find a way

through the mountains

of the Continental Divide,

the backbone connecting

North and South America.

Roosevelt hopes America's

greatest railway man

can save his Canal

- and ensure his political future.

Stevens is a railroad man,

not a Washington insider.

Day after day he tramps

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this is the first script i writed. Sorry if my english is bad more…

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Submitted on August 05, 2018

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